Pioneering policies and practices tackling educational inequalities in Europe

A collaborative research and innovation action project aiming to enhance the access and uptake of education to reverse inequalities funded by the european commission

Duration: 01.03.2021-28.02.2024


Starting Points

Policies to increase access to, and the uptake of, education were introduced in most European countries from the 1960s, with some measures also taken to explicitly address educational inequalities. Approaches in the different countries vary, however. While north European countries favour a comprehensive schooling approach, central European countries such as Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Austria have a long tradition of segmentation with the idea that tracking or streaming students into differential school settings would facilitate the uptake of education. In spite of these attempts to increase the uptake of education and to reduce inequalities, there are still many inequalities in the twenty-first century. Taking only the example of the impact of the socio-economic status (SES) of the families of secondary school students on the PISA 2015 competencies in science, a family’s social background still explains some part of the science competencies in all countries.


Educational inequalities – i.e. disadvantages in access to and uptake of education related to individual characteristics such as social background, gender, disability, or immigration history – remain deeply ingrained into European education systems. A profound reduction in educational inequalities would imply raising the educational levels of individuals (belonging to disadvantaged groups) and the society as a whole, and thus improving individual life chances and overall socio-economic and political sustainability of Europe. PIONEERED is a Research and Innovation Action Project devoted to promoting educational equality in Europe. The overarching goals of the project are to determine research-informed policy measures and to identify pioneering policies and practices to enhance access to, uptake and completion of education, both aimed at mitigating educational inequalities. Identifying pioneering practices rather than best practices takes into account the diversity of inequalities, countries, educational stages and involved actors and the need for customised solutions. Therefore “Pioneering” stands for innovative and (empirically) efficient tools to tackle educational inequalities.

Methodological Framework

PIONEERED employs an integrative methodological framework centring on a life-course focused perspective integrating different levels of origins of educational inequalities from childhood to adulthood. Educational inequalities develop through complex dynamics between contextual and individual factors that are subject to temporal developments (change and stability). Thus mechanisms behind educational inequalities relate to several levels, the macro level of society, the meso level of institutions and the individual (micro) level. Consequently, PIONEERED relies on a multilevel framework that considers mechanisms and innovations related to the macro level (e.g. educational and social policies on country or sub-levels), meso level (e.g. school institutional settings, transition procedures) and micro level (teachers, students, parents, e.g. family resources, students’ attitudes). This includes a special focus on how policies intentionally or unintentionally shape educational settings – including formal (e.g. schools) and informal (e.g. family and peer group environments) environments – and how the interplay between institutional conditions and individual characteristics and actions of the children and young adults become a source of advantages and disadvantages at transition points and trajectories.

More information coming soon.




Coordinating Institution: University of Luxembourg

Along with other participating research teams across the EU, the research team from Trier focuses primarily on educational inequalities in early childhood education and care and pioneering practices to reduce such.


Research Team Universität Trier

Prof.'in Dr. Sabine Bollig

AOR'in Dr. Magdalena Joos 

Nadja Schu M.A.

Selina Behnke B.A.